A pilonidal cyst is a frequently painful condition that originates in the skin at the base of your spine/upper gluteal crease. While often present for years before becoming symptomatic, once they do their treatment can be very problematic for several reasons including their often recurrent nature and difficult “pain in the butt” location. Fortunately, if you know what to look for and get early treatment, they can be a very manageable condition.
Why precisely pilonidal cysts occur isn’t fully understood, but the primary reason seems to be hair, whether your own or other hairs you’re exposed to from the environment. Since younger people are most affected, it’s believed hormone changes after puberty also play a part.
Pressure and friction from your clothes press a hair back into your skin, and your body reacts in much the same way as if you developed a splinter. Your immune system jumps into action and forms a cyst to contain what it perceives as a foreign body. It’s even possible to have several pilonidal cysts that connect under the skin.
While a cyst is often not a major problem, it can become infected. During World War II, over 80,000 soldiers required hospital visits due to pilonidal cysts, thought to result from the pressure and friction experienced in rough-riding army jeeps. This was such a common occurrence that this is still often referred to as “jeep drivers disease”. While most will eventually be self limiting, the chronic nature can rarely cause more serious issues, including an increased risk of developing skin cancer at the site of chronic irritation.
There are a few common signs that a pilonidal cyst is forming. Given the typical location, you may not notice the cyst until its development is well underway. As the cyst advances, you may notice:
Like other abscesses and boils, antibiotics alone often won’t clear up an active pilonidal cyst. Treatment for these cysts requires draining and cleaning. Depending on the size and shape of the cyst, Dr. deVilleneuve may leave the cyst site open to let it heal from the inside, or he may close the site with stitches. Closing the wound promotes faster healing but may risk recurrence at the site.
If you’ve developed a pilonidal cyst, you can contact Surgical Associates of North Texas by phone or online to schedule an appointment. Frequently, early diagnosis and initiation of treatment can lessen the severity and shorten the duration of flare ups of the disease. Therefore, if you are concerned that you may have a pilonidal cyst or abscess, don’t delay in seeking treatment. Even if surgery is needed, it is always an outpatient procedure that is usually accomplished with minimal complications. If you have any questions or concerns, call us today to set up an appointment.